Senate panel to investigate US airline baggage, seat selection fees

WASHINGTON D.C.: This week, a U.S. Senate panel said it would investigate airline fees for baggage, seat selection, ticket changes, and other services, as well as demand justifications from the CEOs of five major carriers for these charges.

These fees, which generate billions of dollars in annual revenue for airlines, are often hidden from and confusing to consumers, said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

He wrote to the chief executives of American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, and Frontier Airlines to request a detailed breakdown of how much they collect from each fee, the reason for them, and the costs to supply each service, he added.

Between 2018 and 2022, major U.S. airlines’ revenues from baggage fees increased from US$4.9 billion to $6.8 billion, he further added, noting that a report by a travel consultancy found that in 2022, eight leading U.S. airlines collected some $4.2 billion in seat selection fees.

“U.S. airlines increasingly charge ancillary fees that obscure the actual cost of air travel,” Blumenthal said in the letters.

“These itemized fees are often not disclosed to customers until well into the ticket purchasing process or after a ticket has been purchased, making it difficult for customers to know the true, total cost of a ticket and comparison shop prior to purchase,” he added.

Regarding the Senate investigation, Airlines for America, an industry trade group representing American, Delta and United, did not respond to a request for comment, while Spirit and Frontier have also not responded.

Aviation legislation, which includes directives banning airlines from charging families with young children from sitting together, has stalled in Congress.

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